Friday, March 18, 2011

I need more time! Land of Two Rivers musings

James's post over at Grognardia about Historical Campaigns had me breaking silence about my regrets over not running my long-thought about Sumerian campaign in an alternative historical setting. It is something I greatly regret - both not having the stones to write the setting and not having the time to run the setting.

I remember the exact moment that "Tombs of Hulkursag" and my Two Rivers setting book projects came to screeching halts. It was the day I sat down with Michael Curtis's Stonehell and realized I was the worst module writer in the world.

No, really. I know that's funny, but it's true. There was no way I could write something half as good as what the esteemed Mr. Curtis wrote and as I picked my way through my own writings, it just seemed boring. What good was having another dungeon with reskinned orcs, goblins and gnolls (as jackalmen, insectoid invaders, jackalmen warriors)? OK, the traps and whatnot, but I really messed up with the dungeon design (only one way between levels. Dumb. DUMB!) and ... well, then I realized that what I really needed was a setting to wrap around the Tomb. The Tomb in and of itself might be a curiosity, but what would make it work was to have the Two Rivers alive around it... with the gods involved, the sorcerors who use demons to cast spells and the warrior priests who perform quests for their deity... and average joe who might be working to establish a trade route with some nearby city-states, but you have to worry about getting involved in the latest war, avoiding the plague devils and negotiate with the river goddess to be allowed to cross so you can get your goods to the other side....

... and that kind of richness is not something that just falls out of my ass. Writing the Quick Start was easy for me - take S&W Core, tinker/refit/rebolt and boom-badda-bing, you're done! The dungeon was already drawn, I just had to populate it. This though.. this requires that I know/feel/live Mesopotamia in my head. Look, it took Rob Conley playing for 30 years to get him to write Majestic Wilderlands, who knows how long Kyrinn has been gaming in Urutsk, and McKinney's probably been seeing Carcosa in his dreams for years.

So I know that in order to make Two Rivers come to live, I have to game it. I have to play it, live it, get things to work the way I want... and then maybe, just maybe, I can match my writing to the level that the above 4 named authors is at. If I'm lucky. And have a good editor. And party like Kellri. Wait, that last one I want to do first!

Anyway... I have to have some gametime and fleshed out the setting that the Tomb of Hulkursag lives in. Then, I think, things will *feel* right and Hulkursag becomes a portal to the Sumerian Underworld.

Problem... no time.

My Dark Ages campaign is rocking. I'm back to running 4 to 5 times a month. My players are busy plotting behind my back to meet the challenges I've laid before them. @thePrincessWife has taken a step into a story that is going to feel like a roller coaster to her... if she continues the path she's been taking so far. I hope to keep playing that once or twice a month... so when can I run Two Rivers? I'm mentally taken up by both tabletop and two online games - the Modern OD&D one (which may finally see some action... my players decided to go back and equip a bit more, since the portal spell to the Underworld has a finite duration and they are afraid of getting stuck over there...) and the Dark Ages online implementation (which the characters are busy looting a tomb of what seems like innumerable coins)... I'm an extremely lucky guy to have all this, and still, Mesopotamia sits in my dreams.

It doesn't help I'm painting my Sumerian DBA I/1a army and imagining how the players would get involved in a mass combat and somehow be a part of it...

Anyway...

Maybe once a month? Maybe I can game it once a month? But then that means giving up a Dark Ages game and I'm not going to do that. It's too cool of a campaign and things are really getting wild and crazy now.


Memo to Father Time, can I have an extra couple of warp days a month, so I can pull people into it to game with me?

So the Land of Two Rivers sits in my head...

9 comments:

Rob Conley said...

What I been doing for my Points of Lights/Wild North/Blackmarsh settings is used tested elements of the Majestic Wilderlands. Then reskinning or combining them in different ways.

I think if you look back through the years you have a lot of good "bits" that if you reskinned or combined in a different way can make for a campaign that has a lived in feel.

BTW appreciate the compliment

Welleran said...

I, for one, am a huge fan of Sumerian history and would love to see this!

Mr. Gone said...

This idea is brutally awesome. You should devote more time to it. Seriously.

Michael Curtis said...

Having had a look at "Hulka's Tomb" I still maintain you're too hard on yourself about it and I think Dave believed the same. But you've got to do things the way you think they should be done so I respect you opinon.

Just don't give up on it. As I suggested back then, maybe the occasional article for FO! or KS that fleshes out a Babylonian-esque campaign setting might be the route to building background without a regular campaign.

ChicagoWiz said...

@Mr. Gone - thanks. I wish I had the time! Maybe the Lottery Fairy will plant some numbers on my ass tonight :)

@Michael - I respect you and Dave a lot - you both have the chops to back up your ideas. I know I'm being hard on myself because the stuff I showed you... it just pales to what I see in my head that I want it to be. I don't know how else to describe it? It's like if you had looked at Stonehell, looked at the SH in your head and the two just seemed worlds apart. How do you bring them together? When I evaluate that, it just seems like gametime/playtime and a setting to put THK into seems to make sense to me. Maybe I am nuts. I know I'm autistic, maybe we'll add ca-ray-zee into it as well! :)

Chirine ba Kal said...

If I may drop in with an unsolicited comment?

Write the stuff down anyway; get your ideas on paper/disc, and then go from there. If you don't do this, nobody will ever see what you can do and what you can create. You sell yourself too short.

If you're having fun painting your Sumerians, then paint 'em; they'll wait patiently for you to come up with games for them. From my own experience, painted miniatures suggest campaigns and adventures to me as I'm painting them; then, they attract the attention of my players who start nagging me to run games with them. I'd be willing to bet that once your players get a glimpse of your Sumerians, they'll start to twitch and you'll get asked to run some games...

"Courage! And cut the cards!" - Lola Montez

yours, Chirine

[verification word: thunbri, a type of cheese used as ammunition in bombards]

ChicagoWiz said...

@Chirine, I have been trying to do that. It's just slow :) and there's a lot I want to play out.

Desert Scribe said...

Have you read Between the Rivers by Harry Turtledove? It might provide some inspiration for you.

ChicagoWiz said...

@Desert Scribe - yes, that has been a huge inspiration and in fact I considered going after some sort of licensing, but realized I couldn't afford it. So I'll skirt around it, taking what works for me.